Blog Post

Forget iWorks — I’m Editing Google Docs on the iPad

With all the talk about Apple’s iPad (s aapl), I’m noticing two trends. First, the device is polarizing opinions — people either lust for it or say they don’t see the point of it. Very few seem to be “on the fence” about the iPad. But there’s a common thread among all — folks are wondering how (or if) an iPad fits into their daily workflow, and that gets me to my second trend. People are looking to the iPad for more than content consumption — which it is excellent for — they’re trying to be productive with it. I’m doing just that, now that I found an app that not only links my iPad with my Google Docs (s goog) account, but lets me edit documents and spreadsheets in the cloud.

Office2 Pro is the app and it cost me $7.99, which I think is more than reasonable for the functionality it provides. The software allows me to use the iPad as if I was running Google Docs locally on my computer. With it, I can view any of my documents, spreadsheets, presentations or even Adobe PDF (s adbe) files I have stored in the cloud. But Google Docs viewers are a dime-a-dozen — the difference here is that I can edit files on the iPad and the changes are saved online to my Google Docs account.

It’s not perfect (yet), but it works

Now there are some limitations and quite a few kinks to be worked out. For starters, you can view all kinds of file types, but for now, you can only edit documents or spreadsheets. Presentations are view-only. I also encountered a fair number of bugs when using the software. Adding an image to a document worked, for example, but when I zoomed the page to get a better view of the format, the entire doc zoomed off the screen. I was able to save the changes, even in this state, but it was a scary few moments. That’s not the only bug, but rather than run though them all, I’ll say this: the developer is aware of several issues and has already submitted a version with fixes to Apple for approval. I’ve captured the list of fixes in the image gallery below.

iPad: meet the cloud

It was tricky to connect Office2 Pro with Google Docs, and the support information could use an update. Once I figured it out however, the steps were actually quite simple. And I didn’t just connect the iPad with my personal Gmail account — the software supports Google Apps accounts too, so I’ve used it for both work and personal documents. Yes, you can link Office2 Pro to multiple web accounts simultaneously. Although I don’t have a MobileMe account, the developer says you can also connect Office2 Pro to an iDisk on MobileMe. And it also supports or any WebDAV server, so you’re not limited to Google Docs. In the file explorer, you can create folders and move documents just as if you were accessing your Docs account in a browser. Plus you can email docs right from the app. From a connectivity standpoint, most users should be covered.


Data entry is relatively straightforward. The iPad’s native on-screen keyboard is available by tapping a button — tap your screen where you want to insert or change data and start typing. All of the special function buttons are at the top of your document, just where you’d expect them. And the app works in portrait or landscape, although the file explorer stays put in landscape — I’d like to see the document in full screen but haven’t found a way to do that yet in landscape. In a spreadsheet, data entry can be a little cumbersome as you first tap a cell and then enter data in a field above the spreadsheet — not ideal, but it works.

Most functionality that people use for documents and spreadsheets is available in Office2 Pro. From a word processing standpoint, you have text and paragraph formatting, table creation, images and even real-time spelling correction to name a few features. Spreadsheet support includes multiple worksheets (although there’s a bug with this), sorting, formatting, cell merging, pane freezing, and 112 functions.

I’d estimate that most of what people need in a Google Docs editor is in the app, or is coming soon. Office2 Pro is surprisingly full-featured if you approach it with a Google Docs mentality — it’s good enough for most users, but won’t replace every function found in the Microsoft Office (s msft) suite. Aside from charts and other advanced features offered by Google Docs, the basics are all here.

Note: to view any images in full size, simply right-click on one and open in a new browser tab.

Buy now or wait?

So if you can connect your iPad with a Google Docs account and edit information, why isn’t anyone talking about this application? I think there’s a few reasons — lack of awareness for starters, not to mention the buggy nature I’ve experienced. Unless you’re a patient person, I’d strongly consider waiting for the updated version with fixes before plunking down the $7.99. Yes, the app works, but it’s not quite where it needs to be. I’ve had to create workarounds for some issues and not everyone is willing to do that. A good example: there’s no Close button when you’re done with edits. I end up opening a new document in this case, which forces the app to prompt for a document save. And that’s just one of several user interface examples that need some tweaking.

I’m looking forward to the updated version as I see great promise in Office2 Pro. I made the transition to Google Docs well over two years ago and this software is breathing an air of productivity into my iPad that I didn’t expect. I anticipate that Apple will update its iWorks apps to address compatibility and file management issues but I’m not so sure Apple will fully embrace Google Docs in iWorks. If it does, great, but if not, Office2 Pro is worth the look.

(Special shout out to Joshua, a reader that tipped me on this app!)

Related GigaOM Pro Content (sub req’d)

57 Responses to “Forget iWorks — I’m Editing Google Docs on the iPad”

  1. I love Google Docs and I was wondering about iPad compatibility. I’m looking to create a quote template in Excel (google docs version) with customized fields so that I can create a quote for a customer, save it to Google Docs, email it.

    Any advice?

  2. I haven’t been able to get Google Apps to log on with Office2 – I’m putting in my usual work email and password but it says it can’t authenticate. Gmail works fine. Is there something I’m doing wrong – it would be really useful to have Google Apps on my iPad

    • Jim, that’s odd because I’ve been using the app with my GigaOM docs, which is a Google Apps account. I didn’t have to do anything special. I wonder if there’s an admin setting in your Google Apps account that is holding back access. That’s just a guess though because I know the software supports Google Apps accounts.

  3. Office2 Pro might not be perfect but it allows you to access your Google docs and edit them. After the latest update to the app it’s finally possible to also edit Google docs done with the newest version.
    I still perfer my notebook to do all the heavy lifting but for small and easy edits I use the iPad Office2 Pro when I’m on the road and don’t have my notebook around.

  4. JuniorMAC

    Sorry, but Office2 Pro is a poor substitute to editing a Google Doc on normal Desktop Mac/PC OS. There are many incompatibilities and corruption errors to make the app unreliable. The iPad is a great device for consuming information, but it was never designed as a content creation tool.

  5. EddieW

    When I first got my iPad, I found it to be a great web-surfing, book-reading, and magazine-supporting product. After reading a review of LogMeIn Ignition, I picked up and installed a copy. From the couch in the family room, I was pleasantly surprised at the speed I could connect to my MacBook Pro in the den and also my HP desktop in the basement.

    Fast forward to one day at the office. Luckily, I had my iPad with me, because I had left an important document at home. I was able to log in to the MacBook, open the document and make some changes, and then mail it to myself. Since then, I’ve been using LogMeIn to allow me to work on documents without having to carry any of them with me. As long as I have a WiFi or 3G signal, I can use my iPad to work from anywhere.

    I even used my iPhone one time when I was at lunch to login and edit a document for my boss real quick and send it off to him. It wasn’t the most optimal experience, but I was impressed that I was able to do this so quickly. And so was he.

  6. Office2 Pro works fine with Google Docs as long as you stick with the older version of Google Docs. All Google Docs you create with the newest version of the Docs editor can’t even be opened in Office2 Pro. You can read them online or download them as PFDs with GoodReader. Might be an issue with HTML 5. I hope for a quick fix.

  7. bgibson135

    I agree with Luscious regarding the need to use an external keyboard for “me” to use the iPad for productive wordprocessing. But, I was a touch typist long before I needed to learn how to “hunt & peck.” However, I think I want to try a Bluetooth keyboard & mouse. I’m also getting the opportunity to try out an Android phone and hope to find one keyboard that I can use for iPad, Android and my office PC.

    Ultimately, I want to be able to dictate to my iPad and use voice commands. Nuance’s “Dictate” is nowhere as accurate or useful as it’s Dragon NaturallySpeaking in MS Word. *I am very pleased with the latter’s accuracy.

    I don’t want to jailbreak the iPad just to test out the voice command capability.

  8. Dear Kevin,

    Thank you so much! After asking around to every computer expert I know (including Apple support), I finally came to my senses and did a Google search for iPad “Google Docs.” Your review was rightly the first on the list. I just got the program — now called
    Office² HD — and it really does let me edit on Google Docs. Just what I need for writing the articles based on my research notes that I have to turn out on my next vacation trip. Many thanks!


  9. I have the external keyboard for the iPad. Office2 won’t allow me to use the “arrow keys”. Or any of the command shortcuts: Copy, Paste, undo, redo, etc.

    Overall I am sure this app is great, but simple things like this make the app overly frustrating.

    Is anyone else receiving problems like this?

    • Yes, unfortunately the cursor keys don’t work yet. I have been talking to the developers and they are working on that plus additional new features. I have been using is quite a bit, but I gave up on the Bluetooth keyboard.

      • Wow! Here I was about to quit on it already! Thanks, a lot!

        Good thing this semester is ending. I’m sure by the time next semester comes around it will be OK though.

        Does anyone have any comparisons between this and Pages?

        I don’t have any way of “trying” Pages because they don’t have a lite version. And I don’t want to make any changes in apps if I don’t need to (I mean an $8 trial kinda stinks if I get rid of this one.)

  10. Fyi: Just purchased OfficePro2 and Docs to Go… The former program doesn’t recognize my Office word documents (just google word docs), while the interface for the latter program is still only optimized for the iPhone (ie, the interface is tiny on the iPad!!!)

  11. Kevin, this is working great for me too (at least the file storage/access part) with both Google Docs and our internal WebDAV servers. Got tonight’s update installed after dinner and will test that tomorrow.

    I would really love to know why Pages, Keynote and Numbers don’t have such a simple file management system. I asked today at the Genius Bar and they had no idea, but they told me that a lot of people have been asking the same question.

    • I just saw the update a half hour ago and based on my limited testing, the issues I originally saw are now fixed. The software is working well and worth the purchase price to me. I really don’t create that many docs or spreadsheets these days, but this meets my needs.

      I even brought one old doc file down and stored it locally in the app, turned off WiFi, edited offline, saved and then shot the updated doc back to the cloud after turning WiFi back on. That’s handy – why waste battery life on WiFi if you can work on Google Docs offline?

  12. Jay Margolis

    Forgive my ignorance, but I use Google Docs on the iPad in Safari and everything works great. I don’t need any apps. It just works. Why is this news? Are you solely referring to the problems with iPad filesharing here? Because Google Docs itself works great without any of this stuff.

    • You’ll have to share the magic of how it works in Safari on the iPad. ;) Yes, you can edit spreadsheets, but only with a kludgy Edit button on every row and column. And as far as documents go, I’m not able to edit at all, as it’s not supported in the mobile version. The software I referenced is a fairly full featured interface. So, how does “everything work great” in Safari?

  13. Paul Dominguez

    Hi there,

    I use Documents to Go on my iPhone which I understand will work perfectly well on the iPad. On it I can create MS Word, Excel, and Powerpoint documents, I can sync, edit and re-sync with my Google Docs. Perfect.

    I can email documents and sync with an email account.

    As far as productivity tools this works pretty well, granted not ideal on an iPhone, but I imagine pretty good on the iPad with it’s larger form factor.

  14. You may have pushed me over the fence. The ability to open and edit Google Apps via the iPad increases its potential usefulness for me. The post regarding LogMeIn Ignition provides another level of service and accessibility meeting even more of my needs. I am curious if Office2 Pro can also access WHS, I’d like the ability to open, move and edit documents on my WHS. I’m not sure if anyone has tried that yet.

    I agree with some of the other posts that the same use case could be met with a netbook. For my personal usage case, if not the iPad then a convertible netbook (Viliv S10, S7, or other) could meet my needs. All of the products at this price level come with limitations, whether physical, computing resources,hardware specs, cost and all are touch with limited or no inking capability.

    If Apple did add inking capability to the iPad, then it would be a no brainer. I’d also jump in if either MindManager or iMindMap created inking capability (with an accurate capacitive stylus) within their mind mapping application.

    The iPad doesn’t meet all of my desired hardware specifications, but some of the use cases that have been pointed out here has me moving at a moderate pace towards iPad owner. iPad 2.0 can’t come soon enough, but iPad 1.0 just may do the trick. Thanks Kevin.

  15. Dennisvjames

    I played with the iPad virt keyboard and didn’t have any problems typing on it. I’m sure that might be different on differet iPads, but I typed along without a flaw for about 15 minutes. Do I prefer a real keyboard? Yup. But the iPad keyboard would work good enough for me for email and typing simple documents.

  16. I really don’t get why all you people are trying to make yourself MORE miserable by trying to get work done on a device that was designed to NOT let you do that properly.

    Want to use Google Docs? there’s a neat device called netbook, you can buy one for $300 and will let you do that just fine, but with more screen real estate available, while streaming music from Pandora or having a co-working session with GotoMeeting.

    Dunce of the year award for the first one that comes up with “yeah, but the screen resolution on most netbooks is only 600 pixels tall compared to my iPad’s 768 in landscape mode…”

    One hint: the keyboard is ON the screen.

    • I agree with you on the overall sentiment, but I think you’re missing a subtle point. Nobody is suggesting to use the iPad as a full-time productivity device — but as a supplemental or as-needed basis, it’s handy to have document editing functionality while on the go. It’s also the same reason that smartphone apps are developed for this purpose.

      • Gavin Miller

        Look forward to your thoughts with the announcement now of OS 4. Being able to open attachments in 3rd party apps caught my eye as being very pertinent to this discussion!

      • I’ve been reading all the comments on this post and so far, it seems that a lot of arguments stem from the obvious fact that the “haters” just don’t realize that the iPad is not an all consummate device. In my opinion, it is not a device designed to replace the things that we can do with our PCs or Macs. It’s a social gadget. A gadget for both fun and a slight tinge of productivity in the hours that we are away from our computers. There is really no comparison. :)

  17. eufreka

    confused. if you can remotely connect to a desktop machine…can’t you then use that desktop to work in the “cloud” with full functionality?

  18. Joshua

    Thanks for checking out the app! I’m one of those few you say are “on the fence” about the iPad. After the famed anouncement of the ubiquitous slate, I was underwhelmed. On paper, the iPad was nothing to write home about. Being a long time UMPC/tablet user, the slate form was something I’ve been looking forward to. I thought the iPad was close, but fell far too short.

    That was, of course, till I played with one at my local Best Buy. I didn’t end up getting off the thing for an hour or so! All I can say is, one you use one, it just makes sense. Does it have shortcomings? Yes, but so does everything. After using the iPad, I found them forgiveable, however.

    I was then dissapointed at the lack of a proper file system and the inability to seemlessly go back and forth with documents over several devices. But these possibilities with apps like Office2 Pro change that up a bit for me. Yeah, my netbook is way better for serious work, and the iPad won’t replace it. but I’ll use the iPad plenty and it’ll make so many things so much more convienient.

    Hmmm. . So. .. iPad or Canon T1i? Maybe best buy will give me a bigger credit limit ;)

    Oh, and Luscious, that iPad that’s collecting dust, just mail it my way ;)

  19. gmazin

    The ipad is as good of a content consuming device as the iPod touch(or well, better)… which is not very. for $500 it lacks fundamental features such as mkv support (or subtitle support in general), audio codec support(the fact that I have to convert all my music to mp3 is bs), and being restricted to iTunes and apples regulations as to what content you can and can’t consume. want to listen to grooveshark? too bad. play old school games with a Bluetooth-connected wiimote? too bad.

    while jailbreaking will lift the arbitrary restrictions by apple, it won’t change the fact that it’s an iPod touch with a large screen(no really, they even have the same gpu and ram capacity) so no advanced content consumption.

    • Mark McIntosh

      Be Patient grasshopper. All these deficiencies will be solved in time. The iPad has only be out a few days. It is very good at what it does so far AND is getting better every day. Check the iPad store daily and you may wake up one morning and all your problems have been solved by this magical device. No other 1.5 lb. tablet can do everything the iPad can do, so you can keep waiting and waiting for the PC makers, or i would invite you to hop onboard the iPad train NOW and enjoy the ride ! :-)

  20. Dennis

    Huh? I don’t have an iFad, I don’t know anyone who does, and I’ve never physically seen one, but I certainly thought that it might be useful for basic browsing and web apps. But, you mean to tell me that you spent $500+ for an iFad, and you can’t even natively edit Google Docs in a browser?

    That’s good to know. I’ll definitely wait for a competing product that has more capabilities.

    • I think your P and F keys are transposed Dennis.

      Let’s be honest here. You weren’t looking at buying an iPad anyway, were you. Just thought you’d get a clever little dig in, disguised as a comment.

      As you well know, editing docs is only one aspect of this video player, gaming device, internet surfing gadget.

      Well done.

    • kevin white

      Dennis: Google Docs attempts to detect Safari as running on an iPhone and uses the ‘mobile’ site, which lets you edit docs sometimes, but you cannot create new ones. Trying to use the full desktop version doesn’t work very well because it keeps trying to open new ‘windows’ to make a new document, which then flips back to the limited mobile version. Since you cannot change the user agent in mobile safari, you are then stuck.

      It’s a combination of mobile safari and google’s own web design that causes the trouble.

    • Mark McIntosh

      Don’t be such a Debbie Downer. I am sure you will eventually get to see and use an iPad. Please remember that the 300,000+ iPad seeds were only planted a few days ago. Be Patient. Also, many many more Apps are showing up every day tailored for iPad and these apps will be improved over time to do just about everything you can imagine. When your done waiting for your competing product to show up (say 6 months from now) don’t forget to re-evaluate the iPad as it should have matured exponentially in that timeframe.

  21. I’ve been using godocs, but editing would be nice. Funny how godocs has 318 reviews and this only 18 so I didn’t give it a second look… Till now.

  22. I think the challenge of creating useful content-creation apps for the iPad will sooner-than-later reveal the shortcomings of the device. You cannot substitute a real keyboard with touch, nor can you successfully mimic the way a real computer and it’s file system works with just “an app for that”.

    Again it comes down to using the right tools for the task. As clever as the iPad’s app creators are becoming, it makes little sense grabbing the slate to do jobs where a notebook/netbook is far better suited, and perhaps even cost competitive.

    It’s not that I hate slates and love netbooks, I just don’t see the iPad doing enough to justify making a purchase, especially when I already have a feature-packed smartphone, capable netbook and quad-core notebook at my disposal.

    • I’m not trying to convince you to purchase an iPad — I’m just trying to point out what you can (and can’t) do with it, so folks can make an informed purchase decision. From your many comments, I know that it’s not a device for you and that’s totally cool. :)

      One thought though. “it makes little sense grabbing the slate to do jobs where a notebook/netbook is far better suited, and perhaps even cost competitive.” I agree with you — always use the right tool for the task. But there will be situations where people don’t have another device with them other than the iPad. We don’t always carry the device we know we’re going to need, so options are key.

      • I understand what you’re saying and where you’re coming from – I know the iPad has a lot of tricks up it’s sleeve, and it’s great to get that info out there. The more you know the more you learn! My view is that what the iPad can do, or would like to do in this case, other devices may be just as good or better at it.

        I’m not at all trying to give you a hard time, but in it’s current form I just don’t see the iPad as offering anything spectacular. As a convergence device the iPad can be useful, I concur, but it is not what I would consider an improvement. It doesn’t radically change the way I use, or what I use for, the gear I already have. You could give me an iPad, yes, and it would most likely gather dust in a corner somewhere for I would have no real use for it! I do have other reasons for staying away from a purchase, and I won’t go into that here, but I’m sure it’s fine if we happen to have a different opinion and perspective.

        Again, no hard feelings meant, and I hope I haven’t rocked the boat too much. :)

    • I have to take issue with the statement that “[y]ou cannot substitute a real keyboard with touch.” I think it really depends: by whom, and for what? I’ve been able to type at close to my physical-keyboard speed with my iPad nearly since the moment I turned it on, and it works incredibly well for me so far as a note-taking device at meetings. That said, most of my colleagues who’ve tried the keyboard just produce gibberish on their first attempt, so my success may have something to do with my idiosyncratic, untutored typing technique. Likewise, a touch keyboard is not going to work well as a physical keyboard substitute in situations where you can’t devote screen real estate to your input mechanism – current MMORPGs come to mind, and I’m sure you can think of a half-dozen other examples without breaking a sweat. Ultimately, though, the usability of the iPad is going to fall out on a case-by-case basis, like most other pieces of technology.

      • It’s not so much the loss of screen real-estate I was trying to emphasize, rather the impact on productivity, since we are talking about content-creation. Physical keyboards have real feedback that a touch screen cannot offer – taking away that familiar element while expecting to maintain the same level of productivity is something that most likely will not happen, hence a measurable drop in user performance.

        You could argue that tricks such as haptic feedback and on-screen resizing help, but a screen still doesn’t give back the “feel” of a true keyboard, or provide the same typing comfort. Folks may not notice it immediately, but it is there. The other problem I have is that it is totally dependent on the application and touch panel – encounter a software or system error serious enough and your virtual keyboard might not be able to be invoked at all. With a hardware keyboard, your chance of failure is much less.

    • medah4rick

      you don’t have to buy the ipad. i felt like i met you at the best buy while i was trying out the ipad. just hovering around the devices and people being negative. no one is forcing you to buy the ipad!!

    • When you say “You cannot substitute a real keyboard with touch, nor can you successfully mimic the way a real computer and it’s file system works” I think you must mean that it doesn’t make sense for you, Lucious, or that you are unwilling to, for whatever reason.

      I’m not arguing with your decision, it’s yours to make. But to make a broad statement as you have done requires a somewhat broader viewpoint.

      Your statement is CLEARLY inaccurate, as many people ARE doing those very things, on both the iPad and iPhone, as well as Android devices.

      Read this link for a fact based discussion of average typing speed:

      It seems clear to me that the average person can do just fine with a virtual keyboard, and I know FOR A FACT that my mother is more comfortable with her iPad’s keyboard than her MacBook’s keyboard.

      • I understand your argument, and thanks for sharing the link, but I must still adhere to my original comments. While using a virtual screen-keyboard may be fine for occasional use, it’s nowhere near acceptable for full productivity – again going back to using the right gadget for the task. Sure, I too can punch out SMS like a banshee on my TP2, but there’s no way I’d be creating a 40-page report, essay or what-have-you using Word Mobile on a smartphone – for that kind of work, along with spreadsheets etc. I go to my netbook when I’m on the run, and my notebook when I’m not.

        It’s not about dismissing or hating the iPad, but I KNOW that I’ll get far more work done over 8 hours using my loaded netbook and be far more productive with it, than I will spending 8 hours hitting roadblock after another with a convergent device primarily designed for content consumption.

        The iPad DOES have it’s uses, don’t get me wrong, but to me those are sorely limited on one hand, and sometimes exaggerated on the other.

  23. I’ve been waiting for this. Thanks Kevin.

    If I get a word doc in an email, does the iPad let me open it in Office2Pro directly, and then save out to Google Docs?

    • Rich, you can’t open an email attachment with Office2 Pro and unfortunately, Google turned off the “upload by email” functionality in December. :( That could have done the trick.

      Although I haven’t used it, Office2 Pro has a Wi-Fi sharing function. Obviously, you’ll need another device where the doc or attachment is, but you should be able to browse for it over Wi-Fi to get into Office2 Pro and Google Docs.